Vol. 8, No. 6
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In order to properly discuss any subject, a proper definition of terms must be understood. With that in mind, notice the following definitions:
To judge ~ "to criticize or censure" (Anges 774).
Judging ~ (1) "to decide…give a verdict" (ISBE) and (2) "discernment or separation between good and evil. God judges among people and their actions according to the standards of His LAW" (Nelson's).
Now that we understand what is meant by judging, the subject can be properly addressed. To begin, consider Matthew 7:1-6:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
In this passage, "judged" means "to distinguish...to try, condemn, punish"; judgment is defined as "a decision" (Biblesoft's). Further, it "denotes the result of the action signified by the verb krino, 'to judge'…it is used (a) of a decision passed on the faults of others…" (Vine's).
There is a similar passage in Luke 6:37, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." The Greek word used for "judged" is the same word that was used in the Matthew 7 passage. The word "condemned" means "to adjudge against, i.e. pronounce guilty" (Biblesoft's) or "'to exercise right or law against anyone'; hence, 'to pronounce judgment, to condemn'" (Vine's).
Another passage to consider is John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." In this passage, "judge" and "judgment" are the same Greek words that were used in the other passages. "Righteous" means "equitable, innocent or holy" (Biblesoft's).
The passages in Matthew and Luke seem to condemn all forms of judgment, but when they are properly considered, one finds they only condemn unjust judgment. The passage in John shows there is a difference between unrighteous and righteous judgment.
The Scriptures recognize it to be necessary that, under proper limitations, men should form and express judgments relative to their fellowmen. There is the necessity of private, unofficial judgment. We must constantly form estimates of the conduct and character of others for our own guidance and safety and usefulness. 'You will know them by their fruits.' The prohibition of judging in Matt 7:1 is not opposed to this, as can be seen in vv. 6-7 of the same chapter. We are forbidden to usurp God's place as judge, or to pass rash and unjust and uncharitable and needless judgments. (New Unger's)
There is even Bible example of such judging. Paul righteously judged against the Corinthian man caught in adultery as well as the congregation for overlooking it (1 Corinthians 5).
The Bible clearly, however, condemns unjust judgment. Unjust judgment is "the act of carelessly, precipitately, wantonly, or maliciously censuring others" (M'Clintock and Strong). Matthew 7:6 indicates such. The pearls denote the doctrines of the Gospel. The dogs denote "people who spurn, oppose, and abuse that doctrine" while the swine are "those who would trample the precepts underfoot; people of impurity of life; those who are corrupt, polluted, profane, obscene, and sensual; those who would not know the value of the gospel" (Barnes').
The meaning of this proverb, then, is, do not offer your doctrine to those violent and abusive people who would growl and curse you; nor to those especially debased and profligate who would not perceive its value, would trample it down, and would abuse you. (Barnes')
How does one decide who is of such character? The only way to decide is through judging fellow man, but one must ensure that judgment is just judgment.
Consider as well Romans 1:26-2:3 as well as 21-23. The verses in Chapter One give a list of sins. The verses in Chapter Two show the error of the Roman brethren--they were unrighteously condemning others for the same sins they were also guilty of committing. They were practicing unjust judgment, condemned for it and, therefore, considered "inexcusable."
"We should do well to consider...that this practice of rash judging is absolutely forbidden in the sacred Scriptures (Matt. Vii, 1)...it often evidences our pride, envy, and bigotry...They who are most forward in censuring others are often most defective themselves" (M'Clintock and Strong).
The question has arisen: "Is exposing false doctrine unjust judging?" To begin, consider the aim of exposing false doctrine. It should be to compare a particular doctrine to the Bible. If the doctrine agrees with the Bible, then there is nothing wrong with it, but if the doctrine does not agree with the Bible, it is not of God and should be cast out (1 John 4:3-6). If a doctrine is condemned, it is done through the Word of God. In addition, the Scriptures actually demand judgment be made against false doctrines. Jesus states false prophets can be recognized by their fruits (actions) (Matthew 7:15-20). Jesus condemned the Scribes and Pharisees for teaching their traditions as doctrine (Matthew 15). Paul warned Titus of the commandments of men in Titus 1:10-16. Romans 6:17 demands one "mark" those who cause divisions and such. First Thessalonians 5:21 says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." These passages clearly indicate Christians are to make judgments concerning various doctrines. The Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, are the basis for what constitutes sound doctrine (Titus 1:9; 2:1). One must make righteous judgments in order to maintain sound doctrine, thereby weeding out those doctrines that are false.
Unjust judgment is clearly condemned by the Scriptures. Righteous judgment, however, is not only authorized, but commanded. Part of just judgment is exposing false doctrine when it comes our way. Something that need not be forgotten, especially when dealing with judgment, is found in Ephesians 4:15 where Paul entreats us to speak the truth with love. [Our necessary judgments, though, must stop short of presuming to pass final judgment on any soul (James 4:12). ~ Editor]
Agnes, Michael. ed. Webster's New World College Dictionary. 4ed. Foster City: IDG Books, 2001. p 774.
Barnes' Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (ISBE). CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
M'Clintock, John and James Strong. eds. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. 12 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. p 1079.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1986.
New Unger's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody P., 1988.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1985.